INDIANAPOLIS | Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is accusing the Republican-controlled General Assembly of turning a blind eye to the effects of gun violence, so state lawmakers can curry favor with gun manufacturers and retailers.
The Democratic mayor condemned Tuesday's House approval of Senate Bill 98, which retroactively terminates a 1999 Gary lawsuit seeking damages from several gun companies that allegedly encouraged illegal handgun sales.
"This lawsuit does not infringe on the right to bear arms but requires gun manufacturers and dealers to provide their products responsibly," Freeman-Wilson said. "Once again, our General Assembly has given bad actors carte blanche."
She said the lawsuit — which has idled in the courts for the past six years — is part of the city's efforts to reduce crime and violence, and she encouraged Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who has promised to aid Gary's fight against crime, to veto it if it makes it to his desk.
Freeman-Wilson, who was Indiana's attorney general in 2000-01, also said the use of retroactive legislation to interfere in a pending court case is unprecedented.
Sponsors of the measure, including state Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said they've been told gun manufacturers consider Indiana unfriendly to gun companies due to Gary's lawsuit. They claim ending the case will lure more gun businesses to the state.
"This bill is essentially placing potential profit over the real loss of people's lives," she said. "When police officers and other sons and daughters of this state are killed with guns that are obtained illegally, we will see that the Indiana General Assembly has ignored this system."
The legislation is awaiting a decision by Tomes on whether to concur with a House change prohibiting the gun companies and city from seeking attorney fees from each other, or to send the proposal to a House-Senate conference committee for further revisions.
All region lawmakers voted against forcing an end to the city's lawsuit except state Reps. Tom Dermody, R-LaPorte, and Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso; and state Sens. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, and Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell.